So what if the Bucs had taken neither O.J. Howard nor Dalvin Cook with the 19th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?
It could easily have happened. No one expected Howard to be available at No. 19. Let's say someone else took him first. And let's say someone else took Cook, such as Jacksonville, which took LSU back Leonard Fournette at No. 3, or Carolina, which took Stanford back Christian McCaffrey at No. 8....
It will happen sometime Sunday afternoon.
Maybe he will take a handoff and juke his way around a defender. Maybe he will burst into a hole, put his head down and barrel over a linebacker. Maybe he'll take a swing pass and race 80 yards down the sidelines for touchdown.
And when he does, that's when it will happen.
Someone will say, "Man, that guy would look in a Tampa Bay Bucs uniform.''...
09/20/17 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — The biggest ovation inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night was not for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was returning for the first time since managing the Rays.
It was when Chicago's Kyle Schwarber blasted a home run in the second inning. Most of the 25,046 in attendance went bonkers.
Sounded like Wrigley Field.
We've seen this kind of thing before. Like when the Yankees or Red Sox come to the Trop. Or when the Red Wings or Maple Leafs come to Amalie Arena. Or the Packers or Eagles come to Raymond James Stadium....
09/19/17 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.
But all eyes are on the manager in the opposing dugout. Cubs and former Rays manager Joe Maddon is back in town.
Maddon: Baseball's Most Interesting Man. Maddon: hip, smart, funny, cultured. He's unlike anyone baseball has ever seen. He meditates. Listens to Springsteen. Drives antique cars. And he drinks wine. When they're not calling him a genius, they are calling him Merlot Joe....
TAMPA — Who cares how lousy the other team was? So what if their quarterback is a bum? So what if the other guys looked like they spent the week watching Football Follies instead of game film?
Don't let any of that distract you from the real story: The Bucs finally took the field and kicked the snot out of another team. While all those Screamin' A. Heads on ESPN will shout about how crummy the Bears are, around here, we have something else to talk about:...
GAINESVILLE — The ending will never be forgotten. It will live in Gators lore. Forever.
A Hail Mary. On the game's final play. To beat rival Tennessee.
"You can't put into words what just happened," said Florida's Feleipe Franks, the quarterback who heaved the ball more than 65 yards in the air.
"Crazy, man," said Gators receiver Tyrie Cleveland, who caught the ball in the end zone to give Florida a stunning 26-20 victory over Tennessee on Saturday....
09/14/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Well, Lightning, which is it? Which way are you going to go?
As training camp opened Thursday, that was the question, the only question.
Are you once again a playoff team capable of making another serious run at the Stanley Cup?
Or was last season's playoff miss the start of a downward spiral to the obscure land of Coyotes and Devils?
It's a scary topic if the you're the Lightning, because there's no getting around it. Time is ticking. You don't get many chances to compete for Stanley Cups, and you wonder how much time is left before the Lightning's window closes....
The past week has been awful.
For us Floridians, can you ever remember such a sense of dread and anxiousness as we had in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Irma?
We all wanted to stay. We all wanted to leave. We didn't know when to go, where to go, if to go.
No answer felt right.
We watched the storm wobble east and west, then back east again, wondering exactly where she was going to go and how strong she was going to be when she got there....
The great Hard Knocks experience is over. And the Bucs not only survived, they thrived.
HBO's behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team during training camp is often greeted with a stiff arm by teams. In the ever-secret world of the NFL, no team wants the rest of the country — and the other 31 NFL teams — peeking under their rugs to see what dirt there is....
A look back at Tuesday's series finale of Hard Knocks on HBO.
BEST AND WORST SIGHT
Watching defensive tackle Gerald McCoy dancing to his college fight song — Boomer Sooner — was both disturbing and hilarious. You don't want to see it, but you can't look away either.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken telling wide receiver Bobo Wilson, "You're killing me." Former FSU teammate Jameis Winston calls him a young Antonio Brown. Hmm, don't know about that. Then again, how fun was it watching Winston go crazy when Wilson almost scored a touchdown in the preseason finale against Washington? Almost as fun as watching Monken telling Wilson how lame his end zone celebration was....
ATLANTA — What an awful Saturday for college football in the state of Florida.
And it got worse Sunday with the crushing news out of Tallahassee.
The college football season is barely under way and it already feels like it's going to be a long season. In some ways, it feels over already.
What a bummer.
In Dallas, the Gators were once again showing that nothing is new. Same ol', same ol'. An offense that was crummy under Will Muschamp is even crummier under Jim McElwain. Wasn't McElwain brought in specifically to fix the offense? The Gators were routed by Michigan, and there's likely a booster or two lighting a flame under McElwain's seat as you're reading this....
ATLANTA — What an awful day for football in the state of Florida.
The college football season is barely underway and it already feels like it's going to be a long season. In some ways, it feels over already.
Saturday: What a bummer.
In Dallas, the Gators were again showing that nothing is new. Same ol', same ol'. An offense that was crummy under Will Muschamp is even crummier under Jim McElwain. Wasn't McElwain brought in specifically to fix the offense? The Gators were routed by Michigan and there's likely a booster or two lighting a flame under McElwain's seat as you're reading this....
Times columnist Tom Jones gives his Two Cents on the 2017 Bucs season
Sept. 10 at Dolphins
Season opener. Jameis vs. Cutler. McCoy vs. Suh. Jay Ajayi vs. Not Doug Martin. Bucs will be missing their best running back for the first three games because of suspension. But come on. No way the Bucs lose to a team quarterbacked by Jay Cutler, right? Right? Bucs, 30-17. Record: 1-0....
TAMPA — Three things that popped into my head during Thursday night's preseason game between the Bucs and Washington.
1. The NFL should be ashamed to charge fans full price — or any price at all, come to think of it — to watch the fourth and final preseason game. The Bucs sat 37 players, 35 of whom will probably be on the opening day roster. Washington sat 31 players, most of whom will play significantly this season. While the game is important for the handful of players still trying to make a roster, it mostly featured guys who will never play another game of organized football again. At least in the United States and outside of an arena. If you are going to subject fans to this game, the least teams can do is open up the gates and let fans who normally never get to see professional football up close get in for free....
TAMPA — No one thought much of it the first time it happened.
Case file: Cincinnati, 2008. Quarterback Carson Palmer, who had started 51 consecutive games, mysteriously came down with sore elbow. A little strange, but nothing that set off alarms. Not yet, anyway.
It would get stranger.
2009: this time the scene was Buffalo. Starting quarterback Trent Edwards got a bump on the head....